14 May 2008

Let's Hear It For The Boy(s)

I feel the need to write a running diary on the crucial Game 5 between the Celtics and the Cavaliers. Larry Bird once said that Game 5 was the most important game of the series. I believe him.

Before you read further, make sure you check out Bill Simmon's column on how terrible Doc Rivers is. He pretty much captures exactly what I've been feeling as I watch this Celtic team try to win a championship by losing every away game they play. It's riveting stuff. Warning: This post is super long but my team needs me -- especially since Lebron posterized the entire team -- so I don't care.

5:07 pm - Lebron James hits his first shot, a long jumper from the top of the key. It's only 2-0 but the Celtics have had two of their shots blocked, one 24 second violation, and a Garden full of fans who have nothing to cheer for. LBJ just hit a leaning fadeaway from the right corner. Greeeat. So much for shooting 26% this series.

Ray Allen falls down as Wally Szczerbiak drives around him, steps back, and hits a three in his face. Well, it would have been in his face if he had been upright. Ray Ray proceeds to miss a wide open three at the other end. Who said he's too old for this game?

Six minutes in, score tied 7-7, Paul Pierce drives the lane, flops around for a foul, and has the ball ripped out of his outstretched hands by LBJ. The King heads toward the open court and Allen isn't sure what to do: foul or let him lay it up? How about both? Way to weakly swipe at the ball Ray. Two plays later, he picks up his second foul and heads to the bench.

5:18 pm - Jmz had pointed out to me how those half-and-half NBA commercials featuring two players have everything coordinated, including the blinking. It's pretty incredible. Imagine how much work it must take to get these guys to blink and talk at the same speed. I wonder what the complete list of players they have footage of is. I mean, Derek Fisher is on now (paired with Deron Williams). He's like the fourth best player on his team. Do they shoot these things on the off days between series or everything is pre-shot? I need an ESPN story about this.

The Celts have probably missed five or six shots from within three feet. Either blocked, bounced off their hands, or just rocket balled right off the backboard. This team is starting to resemble my real life basketball game, I can't layup either.

Paul Pierce's role on the Celtics is "Scorer." TNT does this thing where they assign team roles to every player as their stats flash up. What might Brian Scalabrine's role be? We may never know but I'd guess "Mascot."

Wally World is on fire, three for five, with two threes. Why are the Celts shooting so many three pointers? Rondo just shot a three -- and missed -- while Pierce and everyone else has been jacking them up for no good reason. The only player who should be unconscionably jacking up threes is James Posey, who I'm convinced is a true winner with his defense and clutch shooting.

End of the first quarter, 23-18 Cavaliers. Not too bad I guess. But LBJ is back on the map offensively and he's getting anywhere he wants on the floor.

5:40 pm - The Cavaliers have extended the lead to nine points. Sam I Am misses a heavily contested jump shot from the left side. Shock. The announcers say that he's 0-12 in the last three games. Zero for twelve? Isn't his forte instant scoring? Instead, his bricks are sinking the Celtics' ship. Vinnie Johnson was "The Microwave;" Sam is "The Freezer."

LBJ heads into the locker room, probably to get a phone call from The Commish telling him to cool it a bit before this becomes a blow out. There can be no LBJ fourth quarter heroics if the Cavs are up by twenty. Last year, Lebron went wild in Game 5 and won the game in overtime against the Pistons by traveling on the last two plays. The Cavs won the series by taking four straight games from the number one seed. The Celtics are working on being another footnote in Lebron's legend and it looks like they're well on their way there.

It's disgusting how the Celts are getting outhustled on everything. Rebounds, blocked shots, transition game. The Cavs are huge up front, with Ilgauskas, Joe Smith, Ben Wallace, and Anderson Varejao. They keep blocking and harassing everyone inside.

Is KG the skinniest seven footer ever? I'd like to imagine that given a foot or so, I'd be a Chinese version of KG. I can block shots, I have a turnaround fadeaway, I can pass well out of the post, I have spindly arms. He's also wearing my (old) favorite number, 5, this must be fate.

Scramble for a loose ball and Daniel Gibson ends up with it. He drives hard on KG, throws it up, and the ball rolls in. The crowd is booing. It's a thirteen point Cleveland lead. If it gets to twenty, I'm shutting the TV off. Sam's now zero for fourteen. Ray finally hits a shot though. Three!

5:55 pm - Four minutes left in the first half. The best Celtics player has been, well, nobody. The Least Valuable Player award goes to Ray Allen (check out his pre-game routine, he's like the Jerry Rice of the NBA). It's impossible to tell what he's thinking as he takes a wild drive toward the basket and turns it over. In just under an hour I'm questioning why I spent so many hours of my life watching basketball this season. Didn't I give up caring about sports four months ago?

Rondo hits two three pointers in a row, the Celtics are only down by six! The crowd is going wild. The announcers comment on how consistently the crowd has been cheering "Dee-fense," as if that's a commendable thing. It's like saying they're doing a good job of staying awake.

Well, if the Celtics lose this game, at least I can cheer for the Lakers to lose to Utah during the next game. Maybe it can be a Cavs-Jazz Finals, with the main storyline being how badly Carlos Boozer stabbed Cleveland in the back. That would be fun, watching the ABC execs shoot themselves. Why aren't the Celtics getting more calls? Doesn't the league WANT them in the Finals?

Delonte West hits a three too. Delonte West and Wally are both former Celtics back to haunt their former team. This probably wasn't what they meant by "the ghosts of Celtic past." KG puts up a turnaround airball from ten feet away. Nice. He comes back and hits a smooth jumper from the top of the key though. One thing I've been impressed with is how good KG is at shooting faceup jumpers. He's Duncan-esque in his consistency. He's not Duncan-esque in his clutchness however.

6:09 pm - Pierce makes another patented awkward drive, runs over Delonte, and throws up a prayer that rolls in. A few years ago, I read something about how Pierce's game is "beautifully awkward" (whereas Antoine Walker's game was "awkwardly beautiful") and the term describes his game perfectly. He always looks slightly slow and out of control but somehow manages to be a dominant scorer.

The Celtics head into the half down by three, which is a huge moral victory since they've been getting killed. Lebron has 23 points on 8/14 shooting and a perfect 7/7 from the line.

This is actually a good series for nicknames. The Celtics have Garnett (The Kid, The Big Ticket, KG), Pierce (The Truth), Ray Allen (Ray Ray, Jesus), Cassell (Sam I Am) and Glen Davis (Big Baby).

Lebron has quite a few by himself (King James, Bron Bron, LBJ), and gets to add Daniel Gibson (Boobie), Zydrunas Ilgauskus (Big Z), Szczerbiak (Wally World), Ben Wallace (Big Ben), and Anderson Varejao (Sideshow Bob) on his side. I'd add "the real Joe Smith" in there too since he's been playing so well.
6:28 pm - Here we go, the most important twenty four minutes of the season -- until the inevitable Game 7, of course. Ray Allen starts things off with a three to pull them within one. Pierce picks up his third foul on a weak call by the refs. Rondo steals the ball and gets a quick layup. Celtics have their first lead of the game. Rondo is seriously good. It's only his sophomore season but he's great on defense, smart on offense, and definitely on his way to stardom -- like a Tony Parker-lite. He's the Tayshaun Prince of this team. Ray Ray rims out a seven footer. Alliteration is fun.

I have this theory that the Celts are so good on defense and so bad on offense because they tighten up the rims. How many times have LBJ's shots rimmed in and out during games at the Garden? Sure, the Celtics would have the same problems but they usually get past it by only shooting short jumpers and layups. I heard that the Showtime Lakers used to cut their nets a little shorter to get the ball out quickly on a fast break. Cheaters.

Pierce makes a great drive toward the basket and then throws it backwards directly to Delonte West, who streaks down the court only to be knocked silly by Garnett -- after Rondo stripped him of the ball. KG then blocks West's next drive directly to Ben Wallace, who gets an uncontested dunk. Can't complain there though, I guess. Especially since KG comes right back and hits another long jumper to tie things up. Seven minutes left to go in the third.

Big Ben hits a beautiful floating layup off the glass and then helps KG off the floor. That's so nice; there must be a fraternity among Defensive Players of the Year. PP makes a subtle head fake to get LBJ flying past him. Big three, count it! Garnett has hit his last six shots, Pierce is playing Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde, and Ray Allen slow rolls in a layup. They're up by five!

6:45 pm - You know what's super funny? LBJ telling his mom to "Sit yo ass down!" in Game 4. PP had wrapped him up on a breakaway and took him into the stands. Gloria James happened to be right there and started yapping. Lebron was seen clearly telling her to back the hell down (video). Afterwards he said he was glad it wasn't Mother's Day. Gotta love this game.

The Celtics are shooting 82% this quarter and Lebron has no points. LBJ drives and then gets his shot double blocked by KG and KP (Kendrick Perkins). This is the way the Celtics should be playing. It's hard to lose when you shoot over 80%, keep it up.

Big Baby is coming in. He's good for a few fouls, a quick burst of energy, and knocking people to the floor. Why isn't Leon Powe playing? Doc Rivers is so terrible. Big Baby makes an easy layup off a beautiful pass from Garnett. I don't care, Powe should still be in there. A Rondo-Garnett-Pierce passing frenzy leads to a give and go PP dunk. They're up by eleven. Big Baby falls backwards onto Varejao at the other end, crushing him and sending him to the line.

7:05 pm - Start of the fourth and it's looking like a Celtics win. I mean, Big Baby just put in another basket and short of a miraculous effort by LBJ, the game's over. Oh wait, isn't this exactly what David Stern called LBJ about in the first quarter? Crap. I'm mentally preparing myself for a Lebron-led comeback.

Luckily, Sideshow Bob keeps missing free throws. Why is he the offensive focal point exactly? Come to think of it, Mike Brown is a horrible couch too. Coach, I mean, coach. Eh, I'm not even gonna bother correcting that, they're essentially synonyms in this series.

Big Baby with an ugly turnover. Ten minutes left and KG's still on the bench. Hey Doc, maybe you should get your MVP back in the game? I wonder if Danny Ainge will fire him at the end of the season. I wouldn't even mind Avery Johnson or something at this point. Hell, bring back Rick Pitino.

Ray's looking good. He just hit another three. Too bad it was a practice shot after the whistle. We'll take it though. Big Baby trucks through for a tough lay in. The lead's only eight points and LBJ still hasn't done a thing the entire second half. Oh never mind, he just backed up for a short floater. Hold onto your panties.

Ray misses from the exact same spot he just hit one from during the stop. This one counted...as a miss. Rondo and Garnett go to the same high pick and roll that produced a dunk three seconds earlier. Not surprisingly, Cleveland's ready for it this time. Big Baby goes flying and somersaults over Wally Sczerbiak on the ensuing scramble. Good effort, time to get him out of there. Hello, Doc?

7:22 pm - Five minutes to go, up by ten after a Delonte steal and LBJ dunk. It's now or never to seal this game. Delonte has been everywhere this second half and he just got another steal. Two in five seconds. If the Celts can't pull this one out with West and Varejao spearheading the Cavalier's "attack," the Celtics don't deserve to win.

I'm such a sports pessimist. I can't watch anything without thinking something horrible will happen to my team. It really sucks the joy out of my viewing experience. I'm constantly focused on the negative and never the positive, as this diary has clearly demonstrated. Maybe I am a Debbie Downer like Jmz said...

Rondo hits another runner in the lane. Goddam he's good. Stars of the game: Rondo (20 PTS, 13 AST, 2 3PT/STL/BLK, 1 TO), Garnett (26 PTS, 16 REB, 3 BLK), Big Baby (3-4 FG), Paul Pierce (29 PTS, 11-13 FT), and David Stern for telling LBJ to take the night off so they can get a few more games out of this series. Let's hope Rivers pays attention and never plays Cassell again except when Rondo needs a rest. Rajon is clearly twenty times better at this point. Hell, dial up Eddie House if you need instant offense. I'm a big Cassell fan but he's horrible this year.

KG, Pierce, Rondo, and Allen have all played over forty minutes this game. That doesn't bode well for the next game. Oh look, Danny Ainge was presented with a little glass trophy pre-game for winning Executive of the Year. I got better trophies for participating in read-a-thons in middle school. The glass bauble is seriously tiny. Weak.

7:32 pm - There's only two minutes and thirty seconds to go but I'm still not convinced the game is over because the Celtics are only up by eight. The free throw disparity is the Cavaliers 27 and the Celtics 13. Ray Allen just missed what could have been a back breaking three. Missed pretty badly too. Luckily, LBJ can't hit one at the other end either. Oh wait, Delonte stole the ball in the backcourt and laid it in. Lead down to six. Pierce misses a layup. And then a free throw. This is going perfectly according to plan I'm sure.

King James with an easy drive and layup. One minute left, up by five. Hold the celebratory balloons. The Cavs are pressing full court and the Celtics can't get the ball past half court. Way to go best team in the regular season. Bob Cousy just collapsed.

7:45 pm - There's still 11.6 seconds to go but it should be over. Should. It's a six point lead and it's just a free throw medley. The game sealing play? Ray Allen, of all people, tipping a rebound to Garnett with forty seconds left so the C's could run out the clock. What a disgusting game. At least they won I guess. Nothing about this team screams championship to me.

See you in two days for Cavs 110 - Celtics 69. If you made it through this entire post, we should probably hang out.